"One other asteroid - 2003 YN107 -
followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years
ago, but it has since departed our vicinity," Paul Chodas,
manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California,
said in a statement Wednesday (June 15).
"This new asteroid is much more
locked onto us," Chodas added.
"Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3
has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century,
and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth's companion
for centuries to come."
Indeed, 2016 HO3 is the best example of
an Earth quasi-satellite ever found, scientists said.
asteroid was discovered on April 27 by scientists using the
1 survey telescope in Hawaii. 2016 HO3's exact size is unknown, but
researchers think it's between 130 feet and 330 feet wide (40 to 100
As the space rock circles the sun, it
loops around Earth as well, zooming ahead of the planet half of the
time and trailing behind the other half, NASA officials said.
2016 HO3's orbit is tilted slightly
relative to that of Earth, so the asteroid also bobs up and down
through our planet's orbital plane.
The path of 2016 HO3 tends to twist and
drift over time, but Earth's gravitational pull keeps the asteroid
It never comes closer than 9 million
miles (14.5 million kilometers) to our planet, and it never gets
more than 24 million miles (38.6 million km) away, researchers
"In effect, this small asteroid
is caught in a little dance with Earth," Chodas said.
This dance is not dangerous:
2016 HO3 poses no threat to the
planet, NASA officials said.